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Samantha’s Story: Walking for Willie

Every t-shirt tells a story. Whether it’s a reminder of a distant memory, a celebratory souvenir, or a fabric badge of courage, t-shirts take on meaning well beyond their original intent.

How do you best honor loved ones in times of trouble? With hope and determination. For Samantha Davis, whose father Willie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease seven years ago, the struggle to separate person from illness has tragically become a familiar one.

“Alzheimer’s Disease has been running in my family,” she says. “My dad is the youngest of 12. Out of the 12, seven of his siblings have passed from Alzheimer’s disease. And I also have some first cousins who have recently started to become diagnosed…”  

Making the decision to participate in a walk to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s disease research was easy for Samantha; deciding how to celebrate her father while doing it required some more thought.

“I wanted something to show what we were representing,” she explains, “Not only just a walk for Alzheimer’s, but you know, of course, for my father, I wanted to do that for him.”

Samantha decided to use Custom Ink to create a t-shirt to commemorate the day of the walk. That decision was a hit with her family, loved ones, and even those who had never had the pleasure of meeting her dad.

“The family was so supportive,” she smiles, “Everyone was like, ‘Well how can I get one?’…I even had coworkers that didn’t even know my dad, but they wanted to support and they purchased shirts… So, it was a big hit.”

The day of the walk drew local family and friends to rally in honor of Willie. As the group, clad in purple – the chosen color for Alzheimer’s awareness – walked together, the shirts helped create a sense of connection amid the thousands of other marchers.

“[The shirts] brought a lot of love to that moment,” Samantha says, “It just showed how much people truly cared and just wanted to be involved. I really honestly didn’t expect as many people to support us…  It really showed a lot of love.”

Continuing to fight for an Alzheimer’s disease cure remains a top priority for Samantha, as is the daily care for her father, which has been challenging as the disease has progressed.

“…He’s nonverbal now. But he’ll smile, he’ll laugh. You can still see a little bit of him, a little bit of his personality is still there,” Samantha explains, “It’s been a struggle for my mom and I, but you know, we’ve remained pretty strong with everything and tried to be here for him. Although he may not know who we are, you know, we’re taking it day by day.”

For those unable to join in the day of the walk, the shirts provided a way to show support and love from all over the country. And, each one has become a lasting momento of that special day for all of Samantha’s family and friends.

Check out our new TV spot featuring Samantha’s real-life story, and how her custom t-shirts helped bring her family and friends together in honor of her father, Willie Davis.

Got a t-shirt story of your own? We’d love to hear it. Use #tshirtstories on Twitter or Instagram to share how a t-shirt helped make a moment even more memorable.

Rachael is a copywriter at Custom Ink.

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